I try to make this blog a positive place to promote music I love but I’m not against negative reviews per se (except those that turn into character assassinations) even if I do believe that everyone has the right to make whatever music they want. Still that doesn’t mean all music is enjoyable to me personally. So in the interests of balance I have decided to outline some of my musical lowlights from this year.
Firstly I could write a book on how awful most popular music by men has been in 2017, from Ed Sheeran and Sam Hunt’s cringeworthy songs objectifying women, to rappers like Kendrick Lamar frequently calling women bitches and hoes (the fact that this guy is winning the AOTY in 2017 is pretty depressing) as Roxane Gay says about him ‘why do you have to use the word bitch? It’s not necessary. He’s such a clever lyricist, and he can’t do any better than use the word bitch? It’s so frustrating.’
Still even though I find the lyrical content of those songs objectionable and the beats over-programmed that’s not even the worst mainstream music released this year, not even close. I celebrated the end of One Direction but I have been severely punished for my hubris since instead of one awful boy band we now just have five terrible solo artists. Niall Horan singing about ‘slow hands’ was bad enough but why is no one talking about the creepy implications of Liam Payne’s song about his bedroom floor? And Harry Styles’ attempt to turn himself into Mick Jagger is painfully funny, even if I do admire the fact he’s going against the current trends. Zayn’s song was passable RnB I guess and who was the other member again? And yet 2017 has sunk even lower than the One Direction detritus with the the brain cell cancer that is Gucci Gang and Despacito – a song apparently entirely composed by an algorithm.
And well there’s nothing more I can say about the horror that is most mainstream country music that hasn’t already been said better elsewhere but safe to say you will have to go far to hear a worse album than the new one by Walker Hayes. A forty year old white guy rapping about being dumped and calling it country music is just tragic.
Still this is a blog about female artists so it is a little disingenuous of me to pretend that women have offered the world nothing but musical perfection. So without further ado here are my most disappointing albums, worst songs and overall worst album of the year.
Most Disappointing Albums of the Year
The majority of albums reviews I have written have been positive but when you listen to as much music as me it’s hard not to have favourites or feel disappointed in some projects. It’s just not possible to like everything. Retrospectively the two most disappointing albums that I have reviewed are probably the Wolf Alice and Beth Ditto ones, even if the latter sounded good at the time it doesn’t hold up to repeated listens and was ultimately a let down compared to her previous work. Beth Ditto is also my least read album review, make of that what you will.
Similarly I have felt a disconnect with the Big Thief album, which is sad considering how many people seem to love it and how high it has appeared on the end of year lists. Listening to it just wasn’t an enjoyable experience, which might have been the point but the sense of relief I felt when it was over isn’t exactly a recommendation. Similarly I really wanted to like the Julien Baker album, as I’d heard so many good things but this kind of overwrought angst with no melody made for an unbearably painful listen.
I also tried to get into some psychedelic folk albums but found them a little ridiculous in their pretentiousness, especially the much lauded Jane Weaver and Aldous Harding. Harding gave the worst live performance I’ve ever seen this summer at Electric Fields festival. She was half an hour late and then spent most of the time on stage tuning her guitar, staring into space and talking to her bandmate. When she did eventually start singing her songs were drowned out by the main stage band anyway. The whole show was an ordeal for her and the audience which hasn’t exactly encouraged me to revisit her album.
In terms of country music it is disappointing to see so many of the female acts in the mainstream releasing albums full of second rate pop songs. So yeah that’s you Kelsea Ballerini, Carly Pearce, Lindsey Ell and Jillian Jacqueline. I wanted to find another Miranda Lambert or Brandy Clark but all I got was bland forgettable music with absolutely nothing to say.
Worst Songs of the Year
Taylor Swift – Ready for It
I have the distinct feeling the only part of this song that Taylor wrote herself is the lovely ‘in the middle of the night’ section since the rest sounds like a bad attempt at sounding ‘street’ which could only be dreamed up by a team of super producers. Just imagine playing this song to Taylor Swift five years ago. She’d run away screaming and never come back. When they took away her guitar they took away a part of her soul.
Megan McKenna – High Heeled Shoes
I could choose any song by any number of UK ‘country’ artists such is the dearth of talent and originality in the ‘scene’ but this one really is a new low. A nobody from a reality TV show sings in a fake American accent about how hard it is to be a woman and fit into a ‘size 2’ (which doesn’t even exist in the UK). If this is UK country music then you can count me right out.
Worst Album of the Year
So this unfortunate accolade has to go to Shania Now, one of the most awful collections of music I’ve ever subjected myself to. Yes life is about to get good now I don’t have to hear any of this limp over produced autotuned crap again. Read my full review of Shania here if you must.
Best songs, albums and readers favourites will be with you after Christmas. Watch out for some festive features between now and then. Tell me your 2017 lowlights in the comments.